Tahrir Square in Cairo – scene of many clashes and demonstrations during last year’s Arab Spring – has once again filled with protesters.
The crowds gathered as it emerged that Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak had been sentenced to life imprisonment over conspiring in the killing of demonstrators, but acquitted of all other charges.
Mubarak’s interior minister received life imprisonment alongside him, but six security chiefs were acquitted. Charges of fraud and profiteering were dismissed, and Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa were found not guilty of corruption.
Human rights campaigner Hossam Bahgat, who has been monitoring the case, told the Guardian that a retrial was likely. “Today one is reminded of the closing argument of the chief prosecutor, in which he bitterly complained that he was on his own and had received no support from the state,” he said. “It sends an extremely negative message and is a huge step back in our efforts to restructure the security apparatus. But this is not the end of the trial, in fact it is merely the beginning. There is no doubt that the verdict will go to the court of cassation, which is very likely to order a retrial, and we hope that any new trial will have the independence and integrity needed for further investigations.”
As Mubarak was taken to prison, protesters began to gather – many summoned by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is strengthening its influence in the country as the presidential election approaches. Its candidate is competing against Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s prime minister, who is seen as the military’s choice. Shafik had earlier beaten the secular, pro-revolutionary Hamdeen Sabahi to take part in the run-off.
The election is scheduled to take place on 16 and 17 June.